The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Kennedy) to the Secretary of State
[Received April 18—1:10 p.m.]
512. Just saw Halifax.18 He read me very disquieting despatches from Perth19 and the British Military and Naval Attachés at Rome, all to the effect that German troops were entering Italy in large numbers and that there seems to be an idea in the back of the Military and Naval Attachés’ minds that the movement is directed towards Egypt, Corfu, Suez and Gibraltar. They cannot make out just where, [Page 142] but they consider that movement large enough and serious enough to call it to the Government’s attention. Halifax still believes that Mussolini will not make any surprise move. The Government have arranged for the Egyptian Government to place guns on the Suez Canal to protect the oil tanks there. Some of their secret service messages from Germany do not indicate any surprise move; others indicate a movement against Yugoslavia in conjunction with Italy. Halifax is of the opinion that all of these rumors are calculated to try and break the nerve of France and England with the hope of accomplishing results without going to war.
He told me today in great confidence that he favors conscription somewhat in opposition to the Prime Minister who feels that conscription should not be put in unless the trade unions are willing. With that in mind Chamberlain is seeing the trade unions today to see if they will agree. Halifax wants him, whether they agree or not, to bring in a bill before the Commons and he does not think the trade unions will dare to oppose it. He thinks the morale of the outside friends of England will be helped tremendously if they put it in. Of course if conscription goes in, it will be all inclusive. It will include industry as well as capital.